Jimmy the Terrorist by Omair Ahmad
Published by Hamish Hamilton
In Moazzamabad, Uttar Pradesh—a place that is too large to be a town and too backward to be a city—a young man stabs a police inspector and is beaten to death. The last words he speaks are, “My name is Jimmy the Terrorist.” Journalists descend on the town, ‘like shrill birds’, and a long-time resident decides to tell a story that none of them will know.
Jimmy was once Jamaal, son of Rafiq Ansari of Rasoolpur Mohalla, a Muslim neighbourhood in a Hindu town. His story goes back a long way: to the time when Moazzamabad was named, after Aurangzeb’s son; when Rafiq was seduced by the wealth and refinements of Shabbir Manzil and married Shaista; when the Hanuman temple grew 10 storeys high and the head priest was elected mayor; when Shaista died, a mosque was brought down in Ayodhya and Rafiq became a mullah. As Jamaal grows up, watching both his father and his neighbourhood change and curfew reach Moazzamabad, he is changed himself. He becomes Jimmy, one among the countless marginalised, trying to find a place in the world, dimly aware that the choices that shape their lives are being made in distant places, where they have no influence.
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